The cleaning lady

It is 5:15 in the morning. In the side mirror of the bus you see her approach, heavy weight yet agile in sustained jogging as she joins the group of others already waiting at the bus stop. She makes to board the bus, gasping as she pleads with the driver to let her on. She is one of six ladies returning from a cleaning job. This being one of many odd jobs she no doubt is returning or going from. The area she boards the bus from requires her to have a pre-paid pass (oyster card) or ticket. Only in her rush or perhaps in the hope of saving some coins from the meagre earnings she has just pocketed on this job, she had bargained on the sympathy of the bus driver to let her travel free. It was not to be.

This time, the driver albeit is making the last run of his shift, acquiescent in reproach affirms that she must purchase the ticket from the outside booths before he lets her proceed any further. In solidarity, the others that had been waiting ahead of her at the bus stop all make an effort to assist her in purchasing the ticket. Yet, at the same time praying silently; that the bus driver does not drive off without any of them on board.

It has happened before and the women are all very much aware of this. Drivers short on time, in their allocated shifts will not wait for you to purchase a ticket that should’ve been done before boarding in some parts of central London. This has been the rule for some good 5yrs but it is not well publicised by the transport authority for reasons only known to them. Worse still – if these women miss this bus, it means loss of earnings at their next job. Clock-work is what this country has taught them. Everything has to start and finish on its allocated time. It is a far cry from the lands they’ve flown away from. The dreams they held of a land like “heaven”.

This “heaven” money does not grow on trees – this they have come to understand and accept. It is earned by making sure you work at all odd jobs going at whatever time, night or day, rain or shine, snow or wind. Jobs you do under constant fear of being picked up by immigration officers, or worse, coming across wicked persons whose aim is to cut short your life. They have learnt that not all white persons are kind, generous or eager to help freely as was the initial take.

Yes. Some have died trying to get this “heaven” money. One of the sisters’s bodies was found floating in the river…At first, no one dared come to identify her. For in doing so, it would reveal their own true identities.

The other sister had died out of sheer exhaustion they thought. She’d returned from work, took a bath and went to bed. Only she never woke up. They all said in hindsight she hadn’t seemed well, some even went as far as guessed she was sick with the dreaded disease. Still. It was no use.The medication required her to rest and eat properly. Only the doctors giving her the medication were not aware of her immigration status. Her irregular attendance to clinic an incovenience at worst. Her sole purpose in coming to this “heaven” had been out of trying to earn some money to put her children to school back home. She couldn’t not afford the luxury of prescribed rest nor the proper food. Instead, she had scraped and saved, surviving on KFC’s mainly and the discounted sandwiches at the closing hours in supermarkets. Now she was on confined rest and diet – eternally.

Money or any known assets to send back to help those left behind soon to be divided up between those that know where she kept them…otherwise to disappear in “heaven’s” system.

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